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Untapped Opportunities in Sign Language Interpreting

13 September 2019

The World Federation of the Deaf estimates that there are around 70 million deaf people in the world. When we think of equal access for deaf people, we probably think of more extreme scenarios, such as medical and legal settings. But what about everyday needs and real inclusion? For example in education and tourism.

In 2009, 123 US colleges and universities participated in a survey by PEPnet. The survey found that more than half of the institutions regularly require interpreting and/or speech-to-text services to accommodate their deaf and hard of hearing students:

Percentage VS College requirements

Source: PEPnet

Only 14 percent of the participating institutions can cover their interpreting demand with staff interpreters. They outsource the rest to agencies and freelancers.

Travel is another area that holds untapped opportunities. The international deaf community uses approximately 300 different sign languages, and new ones are popping up all the time. Yet, most interpreting providers only offer services in the official sign language of their country. So what happens when a deaf person travels? 

Right now, there is no platform that offers interpreting for all major sign languages. Imagine if the 70 million deaf people in the world had easy access to a platform that offers interpreting into their native sign languages. Not just in hospitals and in courts, but also in restaurants, cafes, hotels, on public transport, and at tourist sites. How much could such a service generate? The technology is out there – all it requires is a platform and a network of sign language interpreters.

The full article on the sign language market is free to view on Nimdzi.

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